Future of the Cloud, Suite or Best of Breed?


The last few weeks have been very interesting. Oracle held their annual conference, followed by SalesForce, and then Box. It was a good time to be in San Francisco as you had three distinct approaches to helping the Enterprise.

  • Oracle, for all the jokes around them “discovering” the cloud this year, offered a story about their tight stack of hardware and software.
  • SalesForce announced Chatterbox which makes Content Management a native feature to their platform.
  • Box announced new partners and new tools for integrating Box with all sorts of other cloud-based applications.

What you have are two suites and a best of breed approach. A recent NY Times blog post on Open vs Closed covered the two approaches well. What is the right choice? What is the future?

Why Suites Work

imageWhen I run an IT shop, I hate wasting time getting all the different systems to work together. When there is a problem, each vendor likes to blame the other. My favorite situation was two systems that had a history of working together running into problems in a deployment. There were times when they each blamed the other’s latest service pack for breaking the integration.

Suites help minimize this issue. If there is a problem, you have one vendor to work with for a fix. When you are managing licenses, one place to turn for renewals.

Of course, you get a lot of bloat and you don’t always get a lot of choice.

Why Best of Breed Works

New PictureThe first thing is that the word “best” is not always understood. It isn’t the best product or solution. It is the best product or solution to meet the needs of the organization.

The advantage is that the right tool is used for the job. You don’t have excess features or licenses to manage.

Instead you are managing licenses, security, and integrations. While you don’t by suites of software, you may buy a de facto suite as pre-built integrations becomes a system requirement.

Poking Three Holes

Each vendor has a good story to tell. Each vendor has flaws in their approach.

  • Oracle is dealing with bloat. Very few of their products, outside of their database, are considered world-beaters. Can they survive the transition to the cloud over the next  several years?
  • imageSalesForce is a cloud platform built around a Customer Relationship Management (CRM)solution. I don’t know around you, but my organizations do a lot more than sell. They deliver. Chatter never really took off and I suspect Chatterbox will have the same issues. Existing customers will like the functionality but it isn’t a threat to anyone not dependent on SalesForce integrations.
  • Box is both pleasing and disappointing. They are working hard to enable their system to be a platform, but they don’t support standards like CMIS. They announced Box Embed which looks cool and added a bunch of partners in OneCloud. Of course, some of those partners provide features that should be part of the product.

Nobody is perfect. If I had to bet on one strategy, it would be Box’s approach. It isn’t because I think they are making all the right decisions. They need to internalize some of those partner provided features. That said, Box’s approach lets them invest in technology that helps them even if they adjust their approach.

If SalesForce decides that building Content Management was a mistake, that is lost time and money. The odds that Box’s ability to integrate will hurt them down the road is slim to none.

As for Oracle, the future of Enterprise IT is the cloud. Is Oracle’s future in the cloud?

8 thoughts on “Future of the Cloud, Suite or Best of Breed?

  1. Question: How many large enterprise-size companies have you spoken to that say that they see the future of their applications in the Cloud in the near future? Are there any studies that were not sponsored by Cloud vendors?

    From our two thousand customers I still have to hear that from a single one. They do not even want to do anything with Social yet. We even have a hard time to get them to look at consolidated process, content and mobile applications as business-internal Cloud services.

    So while your ponderings on the future of the Cloud are interesting, they seem to be fairly irrelevant in the enterprise IT space. Then there is the problem that content management is not just storing and indexing some blobs somewhere. What about content capture and content generation for business transactions? There are some vendors who offer this in the Cloud, but from what I see we are talking about a few million in revenue for all of them togetherl The larger ones all have no clue about these needs.

    I really wonder where you see all this happening … I certainly don’t.

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    • Hey Max, Forrester, IDC, and ESG have published extensively on how enterprises are adopting cloud platforms. You can download their research from box.com/cio . Forbes estimates that the cloud storage market alone is already valued at over $20 billion, with exponential growth expected through at least 2015.

      Do your customers currently use things like Dropbox? Google apps? Office 365? SalesForce? Netsuite? Workday?

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      • How many of those respondents were from outside the US? What we’re seeing are fairly bipolar responses, based heavily on geography – if you’re a US company, chances are you’re using Cloud already and considering it for content as well. If you’re outside the US, Cloud adoption for core Enterprise needs (such as ERP, ECM and yes, even CRM) is slower, in large part because your data probably won’t be stored in your own country.

        It’s easy to forget that Europe is 47 countries crammed into an area similar in geographical size to the US, and another 148 countries that aren’t in Europe.

        I’ll be interested to see how the Cloud ends up evolving (or not) to deal with the complex realities outside the US…

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      • Things are definitely varied by geography, but I think that Europe will come around. After doing some research, some of those barriers are dropping within the European Union. A European company can’t keep their data in the US, but they are becoming less restricted about keeping it within their own country. Instead of an economic union, they are moving towards a data-friendly union. Membership is much more restrictive, but it is easing pressure on cloud vendors. It is more of an uphill battle in Europe, but there is demand.

        As for the demographics, if you download the FREE research, we provide the breakdown. 50% US, 14% Canada, 21% Europe, and other locations as well (details in the report). Canadians have many of the same concerns as the Europeans but face a tougher battle as cloud vendors have traditionally seen North America as a single market, not breaking them down appropriately.

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  2. We see the Enterprise adopting public cloud applications everyday. SalesForce, NetSuite, WorkDay and yes Box. The movement to the cloud may be the biggest IT shift we have ever seen, period. Clayton Christensen – Harvard School of Business articulated it well in a recent keynote – (@ron_miller posted: http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=1047&doc_id=252267)

    One of the main reasons why you may not be seeing it in your customer base is a matter of perception. We tend to gravitate towards our beliefs and bias, if you don’t believe it then you can’t be it or see it happening. it is still very early but customers are adding tools like Box in meaningful ways and integrating it with onPremise legacy systems of record like SharePoint.

    The other area that is helping are new companies that are dedicated to partnering with companies that are building this next generation of Enterprise software. I posted abou that last week here: http://ecmprofessional.com/2012/10/08/box-partners/

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